“No pain, no gain” was a popular saying back in the 90’s. My thought was, I’d rather not gain anything if it means I can avoid the pain. I hate pain. We all hate pain, and I’ve been known to try to avoid it as much as possible. The problem is I got hurt a ton as a kid. From bike wrecks to dodgeballs to the face, I just could not avoid pain very well. It always seemed to find me in the most unexpected ways.
Threat of pain aside, I still love sports. I played baseball from kindergarten into high school and football from 7th through 10th grade. For someone who doesn’t like pain, I put myself through a lot of pain to get better at both of these sports. For example, I once got hit in the face by a baseball. I put my glove on the ground to catch a ground ball, it came in so fast that it rolled up, hit my palm, and bounced up into my nose. I know it may not sound bad, but it left a bloody spot that looked like the laces from the baseball. It hurt, however, I learned a valuable lesson in timing the squeezing of the glove that I may not have learned without that pain.
For someone that doesn’t like pain, you’d think I would have avoided playing football – it may have been the most painful experience of my life. One of the worst hits I took was in 9th-grade football. When I say I was small in 9th grade, it may be a huge understatement. I was 5’1” tall and maybe weighed a little over 100 lbs on a good day. Most of the other guys on the team had already hit their growth spurts and were quite a bit bigger than me. I was the smallest guy on the team, but what I lacked in size, I made up for with heart. I was determined to be the best. Whatever the coach wanted me to do, I was there.
On one particular day at practice, the coach decided to put me in at nose guard. I don’t know if you are familiar with where the nose guard plays, but it isn’t way back off the ball with all the smaller athletes. The nose guard is on defense and plays right in front of the center. That’s right – the coach put me on the defensive line, with all of the biggest guys on the team.
I was hesitant, but jumped at the opportunity to get in and play. When the ball was hiked, I shot up, ready to push my way through to the ball. The only thing was, there was no one there to push out of the way. I ended up stepping into the gap where the fullback was about to come through. As I saw him, I ran toward him to tackle him, but I was so much smaller than him, he just ran over me! As we both fell towards the ground, I tried to catch myself with my right arm. Which would have been okay to do, if it hadn’t been for the fullback landing on top of me. This bent my fingers back to my forearm and caused immediate swelling in my wrist.
I jumped up, wincing in pain and walked to the sideline. The coach looked at it and said the infamous line, “Just go walk it off.” As if by some happenstance the act of walking around the football field would magically heal the swelling in my wrist that had now tripled in size. I walked around for the rest of practice, unable to move my hand without excruciating pain. After I got in the car and told my mom what had happened and that we needed to go to the doctor, I finally cried. It hurt a lot. My wrist ended up having a hairline fracture and I had to wear a cast for a few weeks. But, did that stop me from playing football ever again? Nope. I was back on the field as soon as I got better.
As I sit here writing, my entire body is extremely sore. I can’t so much as twitch without pain. My breaths are shallow, and there is an aura of pain around me. Usually, if I wake up like this, I’d think maybe I slept wrong or maybe something worse is happening. However, knowing the context and what I’ve been doing for the last week helps me understand the way I feel today. I don’t like it, but I know it is going to be worth it.
Last week I started working out at the gym for the first time in almost three years. I went pretty regularly before we had kids, and after kids, it became a little more complicated. Alissa’s work schedule forces me to be the one responsible for dropping off and picking up the kids. The first four years of Jonas’s life, taking him to and from daycare added almost 2 hours to our daily commute. By the time I got the kids home, I didn’t want to drive anywhere else. And so, I stopped going to the gym.
I’m a morning person, so I’ve always liked working out in the mornings. Waking up in the morning, I have a sense of optimism of what the day will bring. No, I don’t always pop right out of bed. There are many occasions I have to force myself to get up and start the day. Especially, now that we have two kids that are capable of waking me up multiple times throughout the night. Once the evening hits, working out doesn’t sound appealing. When I finish work, I want the remainder of my day to be about my family and exerting my energy into wrestling with Jonas and Eliana.
One of the hardest parts of working out is the incredible amount of soreness you feel in the first couple of weeks. The only thing you can do to combat the soreness is drink water and stretch. If you can make it through that first couple of weeks, the soreness starts to dissipate. Working out is a constant cycle of breaking down muscles so that your body can heal them back stronger. When it comes to the gym, we will endure incredible amounts of pain because we know it is the only way to get fit and get our bodies to our ideal image.
Outside of the gym, we spend an awful lot of our time trying to avoid pain. We tip-toe around people because we don’t want to get into an argument. We pray for God to help us avoid heartaches that may come. In the middle of going through difficult times in life, we try to pray the pain away. We want God to move and do miracles to bring us out of our situation. It’s amazing to me how many people start to believe in God or even just pray when they start to go through pain. When God seemingly “fails” to take the pain away, people stop believing or feel validated to condemn God to be nothing more than a crutch to help the weak-minded get through life.
As Jesus followers, we many times blame our pain on “spiritual attacks.” I’m not discrediting the fact that we have an enemy who wants to, as the Bible says, “…steal, kill, and destroy” us and everything we hold dear. I just think we give satan more credit than he is worth. Oftentimes, our pain and struggles are a result of our faith in God being tested. I believe it is what Isaiah was saying when God spoke through him, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Isa 48:10).
To refine a metal such as silver or gold, you have to heat them to a liquid state. Back before their were machines to do this, a blacksmith would heat the metal in a large crucible. As the metal was heated, the blacksmith would skim the impurities off the top. The substance he was left with was 99.99% pure silver or gold or whatever metal he was refining. In order for the metal to be refined and purified, it had to be broken down. In Isaiah, where the Bible says that God has “refined you…tested you in the furnace of affliction.”, God is actually letting us know that sometimes He allows us to experience affliction in order to make us better.
Our tendency is to avoid this pain at all cost. We attempt to pray it away and ask God to remove us from the situation. However, God is wanting to use your situation to refine you. It’s not that He enjoys seeing you go through pain, in fact, He hurts when you hurt.
Sometimes, pain comes out of nowhere. It is unexpected and all we can do is pray and trust God through it. And other times, we bring pain on ourselves. We put ourselves in situations that we know may cause us pain, but we think the reward is better. No pain, no gain. When it becomes difficult and we want to point a finger at God, we must realize that sometimes we are the ones who put ourselves in this situation. I encourage you to lean into God and His strength. When we experience pain, when we are broken down, we come out stronger and more pure on the other side. Everything God does and allows is, ultimately, to draw us back to Him and to refine us to be our true self.
I’ve had a lot of pain in my life. I’m not so naive to think I am the only one. We all have scars from the pain. You can see some of my scars here.